Young adults want to be heard by the church, study finds

LINTHICUM, Md. (CNS) – It’s no secret that for years, teenagers and young adults have been leaving the Catholic Church, putting aside organized religion for a more personal spirituality, another faith tradition or no faith at all.
A new study by St. Mary’s Press looks at the reasons for such religious disaffiliation, asking teenagers and young adults ages 15 to 25 a basic question: Why did you leave the church?
The answers reported in the study, titled “Going, Going, Gone: The Dynamics of Disaffiliation of Young Catholics,” vary widely with respondents citing sociological, familial and spiritual reasons as well as opposition to organized religion.
What’s key to the study, said John Vitek, CEO and president of St. Mary’s Press, is that the process gave young people a voice, something which has not happened often within the church.
He made the comments during the Jan. 16 release of the findings at the Maritime Conference Center near Baltimore.
“We wanted to hear in young people’s own words their lived experience and their stories. So we spent time listening to young people throughout the country, to hear their stories in their own words, uncensored and unfiltered,” he said.
The study’s release coincided with a 90-minute symposium that included two young adults, a priest, a sociologist who studies religious affiliation trends and an audience of about 200 people from parishes and dioceses throughout the country.
The discussion occurred on the first day of a three-day invitation-only meeting of 65 Catholic leaders, many of whom work in diocesan and parish youth and young adult ministries.
The two-year study found that religious disaffiliation is a process and often begins with questions about faith, doubts and hurts that accumulate over time “until it’s too much,” Vitek said. The process begins at an early age, sometimes as young as 10 years old.
The study also found that the median age for young people to leave the church was 13 even though teenagers may have continued attending Mass with their families because they felt pressured to do so.
Vitek added that almost all respondents interviewed said they felt more freedom and were happier after leaving the church.
Father Edmund Luciano, director of development in the Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey, and a former diocesan director of youth and young adult ministry, said during the discussion that 13 years old was too young to “be allowed to make decision like that.”
“I see a breakdown in this in the home and in the parents,” Father Luciano said. “They are the primary teachers of the faith. They are the role models and the examples. I don’t think the kids are doing anything wrong. I look to the parents wondering why they’re not supporting the growth of their kids.”
The priest and others suggested that the church must better equip parents, teachers and ministry leaders to not shy away from questions young people have about faith.
Panelist Father Joseph Muth, pastor of St. Matthew Parish in Baltimore, said teenagers often have many questions about life and that personal religious life was no exception.
“It’s the normal process of growing up. In that moment we need someone to trust the questions being asked and to be equipped to give an answer,” he said. Many in the audience nodded in agreement.
Christina Hannon, young adult engagement officer with the Coalition with Young Adults in Northeast Ohio, who was in the audience, said she has learned that young adults are looking for a place to be welcomed. If a parish is not welcoming, she suggested, a young person may decide to abandon the church altogether.
Panelist Beatriz Mendivil came to the U.S. from Mexico at age 12 with her family and grew up Catholic but left the church at age 20 to explore other options. She said she began wondering about church practices, particularly confessing sins as a 10-year-old.
“I was so ashamed I had to sit there and talk to a complete stranger,” she said, adding, “I felt … just awful and this person was just sitting there telling me that I was not good. As a 10-year-old I think that’s not fair. I think that creates a trauma for a young child.”
She said she now finds peace and clarity in a “higher power,” whether it is in nature, her family or even her pets.
The conversation returned repeatedly to the question of whether young people are heard by church leaders or others who can guide them through the questions they have.
Vitek said respondents thanked those conducting the study for the opportunity to speak because they had not been given such an opportunity before.
Often, the questions young people have challenge religious institutions, said panelist Josh Packard, associate professor of sociology at the University of Northern Colorado, whose work includes studies on how religion drives people away from church but not from God.
He said the challenge facing religious institutions is not to change tenets but to make sure that they adhere to core values “about who we serve and what we’re here for” so that young people do not feel ignored.
The study began in 2015 when St. Mary’s Press, based in Winona, Minnesota, contracted with the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in Washington to conduct a survey of young people from 15 to 25 years old who left the Catholic Church. It started with a pool of 3,450 randomly selected young people of which 1,435 completed the screening process.
The full report resulted from interviews with 204 young people – 20 teenagers and 184 young adults – who once self-identified as Catholic but now do not.
From the sample, the study estimated that 12.8 percent of U.S. young adults between 18 and 25 years old and 6.8 percent of teenagers 15 to 17 years old are former Catholics.
In the larger pool, 20 percent said they were no longer Catholic because they stopped believing in God or religion; 16 percent cited an issue with family or parents leading to their decision to leave; 15 percent changed faiths on their own while their family remained Catholic and 11 percent said they left Catholicism because of growing opposition to the church or religious institutions in general.
The study also found that 74 percent of the sample said that they no longer identified themselves as Catholic between the ages of 10 and 20 with the median age being 13. More than one-third, 35 percent, have no religious affiliation, 46 percent joined another religion and 14 percent said they were atheists or agnostics.
The margin of error is plus or minus 6.9 percentage points.
The study broadly categorized respondents into three categories – the injured, the drifters and the dissenters – based on the reasons given for leaving the church.
It also outlined a series of reasons respondents gave for their religious disaffiliation including family disruption; hypocrisy within the church; disconnection between belief and practice of the faith; lack of companions on a spiritual journey; disagreement with church teachings, particularly same-sex marriage, abortion and contraception; issues with teachings about the Bible including salvation, heaven and life after death; and disillusionment and frustration that their questions about faith were never answered or that they never had the opportunity to ask them in the first place.
The study follows a Pew Research Center study released in 2015 that outlined the religious landscape in the country and uncovered the rapid increase in people without any religious affiliation, who are sometimes referred to as the “nones.”
Pew researchers found in 2014 that 22.8 percent of Americans said they were religiously unaffiliated, up from 16.1 percent in 2007. The percentage of the unaffiliated rises to 36 percent for young adults 18 to 24 years old and 34 percent for adults in the 25- to 33-year old range, according to Pew.
Pew estimated overall that about 56 million U.S. adults had no religious affiliation.
The discussion at the Maritime Conference Center was recorded and was to be broadcast Jan. 25 by Minnesota Public Radio.

St. Richard artists recognized

A pair of St. Richard School students were honored in a statewide art competition the second week of November. The Mississippi Children’s Museum (MCM) partnered with the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE), Governor Phil Bryant’s office and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) to sponsor the competition marking the 200th birthday of the state. K-12 students submitted entries in the areas of visual arts, music and poetry.
The St. Richard students were honored at the Bicentennial Celebration: Peggy Steckler, fifth grader, won first place in the K-6 poetry category, and Steele Davis, fourth grader, won first place in the K-5 Visual Arts category. “I am so proud of all of our winners”, said Jana Perry, Director of Education and Programs. “St. Richard Catholic School does a wonderful job with their students.” Jennifer David, St. Richard’s Principal, was pleased when she received the news: “We are always so proud of our students, and this is no exception. These awards are a reflection of the skills our children learn when working with the incredible staff on the St. Richard family.”

JACKSON – Peggy Steckler and Steele Davis look at Davis’ winning entry in a statewide art competition. (Photo by Jennifer David)

Report: young people want to lead

By Carol Zimmermann
BALTIMORE (CNS) – Young people in the church want to be heard and be invited to be a part of church leadership, according to a report by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in preparation for next year’s Synod of Bishops on youth.
They are often at transition points in their lives, yet they don’t know where to go for mentorship, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, said Nov. 13.
He presented a summary of the responses gathered from dioceses and Catholic organizations to the bishops during their annual fall assembly in Baltimore.
The cardinal noted that pulling together the responses of young people from high school age to young adults is a challenge because of the group’s broad diversity and many different needs.
He also said the report affirms a growing awareness of the challenges young people face today with economics, anxiety and drug and alcohol abuse.
The cardinal pointed out that the survey responses indicate that church leaders have work to do to walk with young people and address challenges they face, but he also said there has been some positive growth in young people’s faith, especially for those in high school and college.
We have “talented leaders out there doing incredible things with limited resources,” Cardinal DiNardo said, adding that he is grateful for their enthusiasm and leadership.
The responses gathered by the USCCB will be sent to the Vatican which is gathering survey responses from young Catholics around the world.
The USCCB also is going to send three young adults to the pre-synod gathering next March in Rome. In announcing the meeting, the pope said: “The church wants to listen to the voices, the sensibilities, the faith as well as the doubts and criticisms of young people. We must listen to young people.”
The theme for the Synod of Bishops, which will be held in October 2018, is: “Young people, faith and vocational discernment.”
Young people attending the meeting will represent bishops’ conferences, the Eastern Catholic churches, men and women in consecrated life and seminarians preparing for the priesthood. It will also will include representatives from other Christian communities and other religions and experts in the fields of education, culture, sports and the arts.

(Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.)

Annunciation School readers top state again

COLUMBUS –Annunciation School students are the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge champs for the fifth consecutive year. Overall, the school logged 672,794 reading minutes and finished in the top 40 worldwide. Representatives from Scholastic visited the campus on Wednesday, November 8, to present the official award plaque and banner. The school community offered a huge thank you to the librarian, Terri Doumit, seen accepting the award from Scholastic Representative, Les Kevehazi. She coordinates this program every year. (Photo by Katie Fenstermacher)

 

Youth

Annunciation students end year with song

COLUMBUS – Annunciation students in pre-k through fifth grade showed off a few things they have been learning in music and theater this semester in the school’s Spring Snapshot on Thursday May 11th.

COLUMBUS – Annunciation students won first place in the Blue Cross Blue Shield - Ready to Run Fun Run on April 22nd for having the most students participate in the Golden Triangle. On May 16th the organization presented $2000 to be spent on P.E. equipment. (Photos by Katie Fenstermacher)

 

Mother/daughter tea

By Carolyn Howard
GLUCKSTADT – The Ladies Auxiliary of the Knights of Columbus at  St. Joseph Parish hosted their first Afternoon Tea on Saturday, May 6, in the church hall.
Ladies of the parish, and many others, purchased tickets in advance and attended the formal tea party wearing pearls and fancy hats. The “little” ladies in attendance were particularly excited to be included in such a grand affair.
The ladies were treated to a menu offering savory tea sandwiches, a fresh array of baked items (including warm-from-the-oven buttermilk scones), and delectable sweet delights from the dessert course.
Proceeds from ticket sales, as well as donations made during the event, helped to raise more than $1,200 for Catholic Charities Adoptive Services including Therapeutic Foster Care and Brian’s Fund.
With the success of this day, the Ladies Auxiliary is already planning next year’s tea. 

Participants listen as a representative from Catholic Charities speaks about adoption and theraputic foster care. Those who attended could offer an addtional donation or gift to the program. (Photos courtesy of Carolyn Howard)

GLUCKSTADT – Servers present desserts at St. Joseph’s first Afternoon Tea fund-raiser for Catholic Charities.The event allowed ladies to dress up and enjoy an afternoon together.

Crown for Mary

GREENVILLE – Susannah Swindle crowns Mary at St. Joseph Parish on Sunday, May 7, during Mass. (Photo by Rayetta Serio)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GRADUATION 2017

MADISON – St. Joseph High School students Alex Bellan, Nick Louvier, Jason Price, Steadman Strickland, Holt stocket, Taylor Lyle, Nathan Landcaster, Chad Doiron, JoJo GrayLewis and Graham Hlavac put a twist on prom this year by wearing patterned suits to the dance. Photos posted to social media garnered nationwide attention and the young men were then featured on local broadcase outlets. “We all wanted to do something different for our last high school prom. The girls thought it would be a fun thing to do too. We all had a great time with our dates and enjoyed standing out with our crazy suits,” said Louviner. (Photos by Tammy Louvier)

MERIDIAN – on May 7th, the Catholic Community of Meridian honored graduating high school seniors at the 11 a.m. Mass at St. Patrick Church. The graduates were each given a gift and then introduced themselves to the congregation Pictured (left-to-right) are Kelly Bator (Meridian High), Virginia Pressly (MS School of Math/Science, Columbus), Madeleine Hodge (Lamar), Clancy Duggan (Lamar), Manny Routt (Meridian Home School), James Snowden (Lamar), Branson Acton (Lamar).
(Photo by John Harwell)

OXFORD – St. John the Evangelist Parish hosted a Baccalaureate Mass for high school graduates on Wednesday, May 24. Pictured left to right: Kolbe Leary; Carson Stinnet ; Ben Bianco; Zack Smith; Suzanna Cassisa. (Photo by Gene Buglewicz)

 

 

 

 

 

PEARL –St. Jude Parish high school graduates Baylee Walter, Austin Murillo and Shelby Chapman make 2017 with pastor Father Jeffrey Waldrep after the Mass honoring them. Honored, but not pictured are Timothy Tran, and Alek Demarest (Photo by Rhonda Bowden)

Youth News

Easter Egg Toss

WINONA – Sacred Heart parish youth hosted their first Easter Eggstravaganza including a raw egg toss, pictured. The students also enjoyed dying eggs, face/arm painting, crafts, relay races, egg toss and a “pock the egg” tourney. The event ended with a picnic lunch. (Photo by Tara Trost)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crowning Mary

JACKSON – St. Richard School hosted a May crowning for every Mary statue on campus on Wednesday, May 10. Above, Pre-K4 student Elizabeth Elmore leaving a flower at the base of the Mary statue outside in the Mary garden.

Sixth-grader Alexia Brown crowns the statue in the church as Catherine Amy watches.

Pre-K4 students Max Oviedo and Gemma Metzger crown the Mary statue outside in the Mary garden near the front door. (Photos by Chris Lombard)

GREENVILLE – Students from Our Lady of Lourdes gathered outside on May 11 to honor Mary. LillyAnn Pearson carries the crown and Ashton Barnes carries a rosary as they walk to the statue with Ally Moss and Clayton Hensley. The students took time to honor their teachers and retiring principal Michelle Gardiner. (Photos by Missi Blackstock)

Students from Our Lady of Lourdes gathered outside on May 11 to honor Mary.

Students from Our Lady of Lourdes gathered outside on May 11 to honor Mary.

Flight to the finish

JACKSON – The Cardinal Men’s Club hosted the Flight to the Finish 5-K race Saturday, May 6 at St. Richard Parish. Above, Andrew Doherty takes off at the start of the fun run. (Photo by Chris Lombard)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Service project prepares youth for confirmation

GREENWOOD – The confirmation candidates from Winona Sacred Heart Parish spent a Saturday in April working in the garden around the Chapel of Mercy at Locus Benedictus retreat center. The work included weeding the beds all around the chapel as well as mulching and planting rose bushes. The youth have adopted the spot at the retreat center and will maintain the flower beds. Locus Benedictus Spirituality Center is a private retreat center serving the diocese. The Redemptorist community serving Hispanics in the Delta base their operations from a home they share on site.

GREENWOOD – Sacred Heart youth (l-r) Natalie Rosamond, Caydence Trost and CisLee Trost work in the garden at Locus Benedictus. (Photo by Tara Trost)

Spring recital at St. Thea Bowman

JACKSON – On Thursday, May 4, Students from Sr. Thea Bowman School demonstrated their many talents at the spring recital. In addition to dancing, singing and music, there were martial arts demonstrations and public speaking. (Photos by Melisa Smalley)

Spring recital at St. Thea Bowman

Spring recital at St. Thea Bowman

Spring recital at St. Thea Bowman

Spring recital at St. Thea Bowman

Spring recital at St. Thea Bowman

 

Jóvenes hispanos celebran la resurrección de Cristo

El 22 de abril, unos 30 jóvenes hispanos celebraron la resurrección de nuestro Señor durante el primer “Pascua Juvenil, Viva Cristo Rey” en el Locus Benedictus en Greenwood. El día consistió en oración, canciones, actividades al aire libre, videos, sesiones de escucha y más. Sacerdotes Redentoristas del Delta estaban disponibles para escuchar confesiones y el día terminó con la celebración de la Santa Misa.

GREENWOOD – Wilmer Urizar de San Pedro en Jackson y Nestor Juárez de St. James en Tupelo. (Fotos de Veronica Lopez)

Isamar Mazy de San Pedro en Jackson y Diana López de St. James en Tupelo. Eliazar Castillo de St. James en Tupelo.

Los jóvenes rezan el Rosario mientras celebran la resurrección de nuestro Señor.